All the Reasons You Should Wear the Tourist Badge


 Francis Tapon being a tourist - observing everything in Latvia with a map in handIt’s a pity that the word tourist has a negative connotation. It should be a compliment and something to aspire to. Instead, people make statements like: “I hate going there, it’s so touristy,” or “Tourists are so annoying,” or “I’m not a tourist, I’m a traveler.”

It’s time we transform the negative tourist connotation into a positive one.

First, things are touristy for good reason—they’re often amazing in some way. There’s a reason why the Louvre is so touristy and the museum in Lyon is not. It’s because the Louvre is better.

The Golden Gate Bridge is touristy because it’s more breathtaking than the bridge in Harrisburg. Similarly, the Grand Canyon attracts more tourists than the Great Divide Basin because the Grand Canyon is far more spectacular.

We can have pedantic debates about beauty being in the eye of the beholder, but I hope you will understand the point.

Tourists are smart and well-informed and so they spend their time, money, and energy going to extraordinary places. They would be stupid to do otherwise, so let’s stop saying that tourists are stupid and that touristy places are lame.

Second, tourists are more alive than a local resident. When a tourist visits Prague, she walks around like a child, observing every building, every sign, and every scent. The local, on the other hand, walks with tunnel vision, oblivious to the world around him.

He’s a zombie in his own city. Ask the local about a building, a statue, or the city’s history, and you often get a shrug and “I dunno.” Ask the tourist, and she has the answer because she read it in her guidebook. Or at least, she’ll be curious to know the answer.

Francis Tapon
Francis Tapon is half Chilean and half French and he was born and raised in San Francisco, California. He's been to over 80 countries, but he keeps coming back to this magical city because he loves earthquakes.

He spoke Spanish at home, French at school, and English everywhere else. He can get by in Portuguese and Italian, barely survive in Russian and Slovenian, and speak a few other languages.

Francis has an MBA from Harvard Business School and co-founded a successful Silicon Valley company that did robotic vision. He left his technology life to walk across America four times. He has thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail, and in 2007, became the first to do a round-trip on the Continental Divide Trail. In 2009, he was one of the finalists for the California Outdoors Hall of Fame, which "features nominees who are world-renowned for their skills and who have helped inspire thousands of others to take part in the great outdoors."

Francis has written a couple of travel books including The Hidden Europe: What Eastern Europeans Can Teach Us and Hike Your Own Hike: 7 Life Lessons from Backpacking Across America. He also produced a 77-minute video about his CDT Yo-Yo.
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